Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dreams of flight (part two)

Landing a hang glider requires a level of skill directly proportionate to the type of glider you are flying. In simple terms, a beginners glider is easy to land and a high performance glider takes a keen since of timing as well as concentration and luck. A hang glider lands similar to a bird. As the glider comes in skimming the ground for a landing, Just at the right moment the pilot pushes his weight aft of the glider causing the craft to abruptly stop. Given the ideal conditions, landing zone and wind direction, landing a hang glider can be the most exhilarating and predictable part of the flight. Conversely, landing where you took off, at the top of a mountain, doesn't share the prerequisites for an ideal landing. If you can master the art of top landing, you enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you can put it in where ever you like at any time. Sometimes the equivalent of landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier, but without power you can't go around.

So after an incredible day of flying, Bob decides to leisurely cruise out and land at the main LZ at the bottom of the mountain and let me drive Mr. Cruiser down solo. As I pulled into the LZ it was dusk. The fireworks mother nature had provided earlier was just a dull fading memory. I was worried. Bob was coming in on final with very little light left to safely make a landing. With a hundred and fifty feet left on Bobs glide, I noticed quite a bit of barking coming from where bob was set up to land. Because of my perspective, I couldn't make out exactly what all the racket was about. After landing, Bob hastily dropped his wing, un-hooked his harness and bolted in my direction. Running as hard as he could as a pack of wild dogs gave chase.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dreams of flight

A flight memory with friend Bob Cano who recently died in a car accident.

A kaleidoscope of iridescent light stretched out like a carpet of radiant orange and red hues. From horizon to horizon, the mackerel sky appeared alien and otherworldly. This moment would be forever burned into my memory.

Since early afternoon, Bob and I had been flying, and by six o'clock we had both logged several hours of flight time with multiple top landings. Just west of Palmdale California, Saniquin Mountain was a site we rarely flew. Mainly because of the rugged four wheel drive road to the top. Long ago the top of the mountain was once home to a government weather station, now obviously debunked. The road had probably not been maintained for several decades. The drive up was one of many white knuckle off road adventures associated with the pursuit of flying hang gliders. Our ride to the top - a vintage F-J40 Land Cruiser.

The 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser was one of my passions and a definite work in progress. Always in need of some type of serious work, it seems it always had some form of brake related issues. In the late summer of 1989 I purchased "Mr. Cruiser" in Reno Nevada, close to the end of a flying trip with the Steve Nootenboom and family. Steve and his wife Tanya lived in the Mojave Desert near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. They lived in a house truck Steve built himself on the bed of an early 50's tractor-trailer truck. The house truck included Solar panels, a self-contained water system and ornate woodwork that reflected a Victorian style. Steve's Land Cruiser and subsequent ride on our trip, was quite the work. He had invested thousands of dollars and untold hours of work restoring his prize. It was this sea foam green four-wheel drive beast that started the Land Cruiser obsession with me.

Mr. Cruiser was a rusted out, 70's goldenrod colored heap that would over the years, require to much time,money and attention. Needless to say, it was no less notorious on the way up to Saniquine. At one point along the treacherous climb, I glanced over at Bob noticing his hand firmly clutching the door handle. Ready to jump at the first sign of trouble.

Generally, flying Saniquine is best in the late afternoon. After a long hot summer day , the heated valley floor can produce a wonder wind, a phenomenon typically associated with consistently soarable, velvety smooth air. An air junkie’s prize. That evening, after a grueling hour ride to the top, we were rewarded with one of the most satisfying series of flights in our aviation careers. Back and forth like soaring birds, we cruised effortlessly a hundred and fifty to three hundred feet above the ridge top in the dreamiest air you could imagine. And it was all you want. The lift was so consistent, we only came down for a momentary break, a soda out of the ice chest, or just to confirm that we were experiencing reality - not dreaming.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The gang got together last night at the Prairie Schooner. It's a western themed restaurant in Provo. The tables are mock covered wagons encircled around campfires, desert scenery and even stuffed coyotes and other desert animals. We had a great time and talked about flying, (poor wives) till the restaurant closed.

Earlier in the week the Amstel light crew made thier annual showing at the resort.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Patroler's Day

This past week we've seen snow in epic proportions. These storms make life on the mountain intense. The skiing has been incredible!

One of my masterpieces

Zoie gets all dressed up - bored patrolers do strange things.

6am. 18 patrolers heading up to summit in the back of a snow cat.

Looking out the back window at the Pioneer patrol shack.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Today the pre-frontal south winds brought some great cloud formations along the back of the Wasatch.

A few shots of some lenticular cloud formations behind the resort.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Guns Of Winter

Nothing else gets the blood flowing like the smell of snow in the morning. A line of snow guns blowing the man made stuff skyward.

It's been a slow start, but finally the resorts are looking good. In part, due to the ability to create the white stuff. We have had a few good storms in the last ten days that have brought some great powder days, as well as raise the base substantially.

Even though I patrolled last year as a weekend volunteer, there's been so much to learn as a full timer. The two systems are similar, but greater responsibility goes along with being a pro. All of the avalanche control work is handled by the pro's, and even rookies partake in the duties.

A great sunset at evening sweeps.